On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Warren County, Indictment No. 07-03-123.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, P.J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman, Winkelstein and LeWinn.
The primary issue presented by this appeal is whether members of the United States Marshals Service are authorized to arrest a fugitive who they have reason to believe has fled from one state to another to avoid prosecution. We conclude that such flight constitutes a violation of the Federal Fugitive Felon Act, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1073, and that United States Marshals are authorized to make a warrantless arrest of a person who they have probable cause to believe has violated that Act.
The United States Marshals Service has established task forces around the country to pursue fugitives. These task forces consist of permanent United States Marshals and local law enforcement officers deputized as Marshals solely for task force operations. One such task force is based in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. According to a Department of Justice memorandum of understanding, the mission of this task force "is to seek out and arrest, in a joint coordinated manner, persons who have unexecuted state and federal warrants lodged against them."
From October 22 to October 28, 2006, the Marshals Service conducted FALCON III, a large-scale mobilization of fugitive task forces in the eastern and midwestern parts of the United States to apprehend individuals wanted on state and federal warrants. In order for the task forces to meet the objectives of FALCON III, a substantial number of local law enforcement officers were deputized as temporary special Deputy United States Marshals.
One of the fugitives targeted by the Eastern District task force as part of FALCON III was Michelle Smith, an escapee from a Pennsylvania detention center. A warrant had been issued for Smith's escape and violation of parole, and Pennsylvania parole agents received information that Smith was residing at 20 North Main Street in Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
On the morning of October 25, 2006, members of the task force, including a Deputy United States Marshal and five Pennsylvania law enforcement officers who had been deputized as special Deputy United States Marshals, went to this Phillipsburg address to arrest Smith. All wore identifying badges or jackets.
Four officers entered a vestibule inside the front door of the building, while two officers secured the outside of the building. One of the officers, Tim Hornbaker, knocked on the door and announced the presence of the federal law enforcement officers. After thirty to sixty seconds, the door opened, and Officer Hornbaker observed Smith standing next to defendants, Murray Aikens and Anthony Brown, inside the apartment. Hornbaker told Smith, "you know why we're here." Aikens then pushed Smith towards the officers. One of the officers behind Hornbaker grabbed Smith and handcuffed her.
After the officers arrested Smith, they entered the apartment to detain the other occupants. Hornbaker testified that they did so "for officer safety" until Smith was removed from the scene. He also testified that defendants appeared "real nervous" and that the man who had opened the door had stepped into an adjoining bedroom.
Hornbaker asked defendants to sit on the floor. Aikens cooperated, but Brown first tossed something that looked like a bag behind the couch. Upon seeing Brown toss the bag, Hornbaker immediately ...